Use Your Voice For #MeToo, No Matter Who You Are
In fall 2017 the #MeToo movement caught fire, and it’s been at the forefront of many of our minds ever since. What has really struck me about this movement is that its power lies in the courageous act of sharing our stories to create awareness and, ultimately, interrupt forms of misogyny that women experience in society. Because this movement is so important, it bears mentioning that when the fire dies down, and #MeToo makes its way off the front page, it’s up to each one of us—no matter our gender—to keep the conversation going if we want to continue creating change.
Stories Raise Awareness
As women, we’ve been sharing our stories about misogyny, gender bias, sexual harassment, and sexual violence since the beginning of time—the difference is that while this has typically happened amongst ourselves, the #MeToo movement brings our stories to a broader audience. Since we're sharing our stories openly and publicly, men are getting to hear more about what we’ve been going through for years.
Over the past few months, I’ve witnessed many men express surprise that so many women (and especially so many women they know) have experienced forms of gender bias, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. Many men are equally as shocked by the prevalence of the abuse women experience as they are by the nature of what we go through.
Awareness is key to interrupting forms of oppression, so we need more men to understand both the pervasiveness of these problems and our actual experiences. Here is an example of why awareness is key. A few years ago the preeminent consulting firm McKinsey conducted a study and found that men are more likely than women to think the workplace is equitable when it comes to gender. In doing extensive work in this space, I believe this kind of discrepancy comes down to awareness. I've seen that men often underestimate and minimize women’s experiences, in part because they don’t hear the stories as directly or with as much detail. They don’t hear the stories we’ve been sharing behind closed doors. In my view, this is the disconnect that the #MeToo movement has the power to repair. Speaking up to tell our stories is key.
Given the importance of sharing stories, I’ll take a moment to speak up about my own experiences (just the most recent stories—I have dozens of other stories that I could share from my lifetime thus far).
A while ago, I was at a nightclub with friends when a man I didn’t know came up behind me and smacked me so hard on my butt that he nearly knocked me over, leaving a bruise that lasted weeks. When I turned around to address what had happened, he’d disappeared into the crowd. I was both hurt and enraged.
A year ago, on a date, a man pressured me so relentlessly to engage in unwanted sexual activity (after repeatedly hearing a firm no—and I stuck to my guns on that), that I ended the night feeling harassed, violated, and downright gross.
In addition to these stories, on a regular basis I experience direct and indirect forms of gender bias, which also intersect with racism, given that I’m a woman of color. I also live in constant fear of sexual harassment and sexual violence based on past experiences. I spend time exploring my fears in therapy and with my friends. I do my work, but sometimes it feels like a cloud following me around, and it sucks.
Men, Speak Out Too
It can’t be left strictly on women’s shoulders to interrupt and draw attention to what’s happening. Men—you need to speak out too. As members of our society who hold power, privilege, and supremacy, we need you to step up to change the norms of how women are perceived and treated, especially by other men. It is exhausting, and downright unfair, for women to have to fight this fight on our own, especially when men don’t believe us and, even more importantly, when they hold power, privilege, and supremacy over us. In particular, we need to you share your stories of observing misogyny and what you’ve done address it. We also need you to interrupt other men when they minimize the experiences of women.
I recently encountered a situation on WhatsApp where a male friend of mine posted an article about how confused men are in the #MeToo era—how they’re not sure whether they can even ask a woman out, etcetera. The article was full of misogyny, misinformation, and frankly—some sexist bullshit! Reading it, I was irate. I knew that something had to be said about how crappy the article was, but in that moment, I felt exhausted—I didn’t feel like being the one to say it.
As I sat there dithering about what to do, thankfully another male friend on the board swooped in to say exactly what I was thinking—he schooled the guy on the realities of what women experience, and pointed out what was so misguided about the article. I was grateful that the friend who posted the article had an opportunity to learn something without me having to advocate on behalf of my own gender (yet again!).
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Our voices matter. No matter who you are, if you want to see change happen, don’t stop speaking out. Whether it’s sharing your own stories or calling out misogyny in real-time—we need everyone’s voices, now more than ever. Let’s not let the #MeToo fire burn out.